Are you a doggo lover? Then you’ll understand the joy that lies in travelling with a furry baby. Vrutika Doshi and her husband from Mumbai travelled to the snow-blanketed Manali not with one, but her two pet doggos, Coffee and Butter. While on the trip, they met some other adorable pooches too. Here’s Vrutika taking over to narrate the paw-ntastic story.
Igloo Stay In The Himalayas With My Golden Doggos – Coffee & Butter
Being a travel addict, I realized why should we have all the fun, so we decided to take our dogs to the mountains. The thought of handling two pets scared me as Coffee is the well-behaved one but Butter is a little monster. But they really amazed me by being such well-behaved dogs. I guess that’s where the training comes in hand. Now I will never be able to go to a snowy place without them. Planning was not very difficult as we already had a trip with Coffee (the older one) to Auli, Uttarakhand earlier. Now it was time for Butter to experience the wonders of snow.
Things To Know Before Travelling With Your Pet
We were accompanied by Neo (Butter’s real brother) and his parents. All the doggos together are inseparable and always have a blast. The first thing to do was to book a first AC ticket and get a coupe allotted, as dogs are only allowed in a coupe on Indian Railways (The rule is 1 pet per PNR). To get a coupe allotment, a request letter has to be dropped at the office of the Assistant Commercial Officer (Reservation) at the starting city of your trip, two days before you are travelling. Photocopies of pets’ vaccination card, fitness travel certificate of your pet, your adhaar card and train tickets have to be submitted along with the request letter.
On the day of travel bring your pet 2 hours before the scheduled time as you need to book your pet as luggage and pay your fees which is accepted by the parcel counter after a coupe allotment confirmation is shown to them. The counters can be spread across either ends of the station making it a long walk, depending on the city, so hiring a porter would be recommended. Be smart of porters fleecing for a short distance
Make your checklist of water bowls, lots of treats, winter jackets, sweaters, doggy first aid kit, dog food, extra leashes & collars, mattresses, poop bags, a stick, and your better half and your good to go!!!
Next pre-book your stay, as pet-friendly places are hard to find. We booked homestays & Airbnb’s as they normally are large beautiful properties with open spaces for the pets to enjoy. Beware, Booking.com hosts can cancel last minute too, leaving you stranded
And at last, the final thing was to book a pet-friendly travel company for a chauffeur-driven car with decent space for the pets to be comfortable.
Here’s How Our Journey Started From Mumbai
Our trip started from Mumbai to Delhi by train, the pets smelled each and every corner of the train bogie and coupe and got themselves comfortable in the 2 seater coupe which we were allotted. Regarding their pee-poo business, we would get down whenever the train had a stop for 5 minutes or more. After a couple of times they understand the drill, don’t underestimate your pet. They are super smart.
As soon as we reached Delhi we got in our Innova and started with our 15-day road trip. Our plan was to travel not more than 4-5 hours every day as Butter has motion sickness and our itinerary was as below:
- Chandigarh (1 day) – Airbnb Stay
- Sundernagar (1 day) – Hotel Stay
- Sethan – (1 day) Igloo Stay
- Manali (3 days) – Home Stay
- Jibhi (1 day) – Airbnb Stay
- Shimla (3 days) – Cottage Stay
- Kasauli (2 days) – Home Stay
Starting out of Delhi, we dropped our coupe request letters for the return journey at the Indian Railway HQ (15 minutes from Delhi Railway Station). Heading on to Chandigarh, we were caught in the farmer protest delaying our journey by 5 hours and finally reaching in the night where our doggos finally had their first stop. The next morning, after picking up super cheap booze and hogging on the best parathas ever at Bansal Amritsari Kulcha and we started our trip.
Finding A Pet-Friendly Hotel
After a beautiful foggy drive, we reached Sundernagar, to find our stay had been canceled. We drove on, to try and find a pet-friendly place in the next town. We found a hotel in a place called Mandi. To our luck, the hotel was empty, guess due to Covid and had a huge garden. Our doggos could not wait to be let loose. As soon as we left the doggos off-leash they kept running, I guess they had too much energy after sitting for hours. And then they found a puddle… They rolled in the mud and played only to come out as the dirtiest dogs ever, on day 2 of the trip!!!
The Winding Mountain Roads Leading To Manali
We started for Manali the next morning. The drives here on were winding mountain roads and we realized Butter wasn’t comfortable sitting on our lap or on the seat seeming like motion sickness was setting in, in spite of the meds. Our smart monster found a way to go and lie down at the footrest area and fix himself between our legs, which we called as -1. Problem solved!! Finally, after four days of travelling we reached Sethan, their first snow-clad destination. A snow-covered mountain slope at 11000 feet above the sea with actual igloos to stay in! Temperatures in the day would be 0°C and at night would fall up to -15°C
Being a professional photographer, I had decided to capture the Sethan igloo experience in ‘A Day in the Life’ format (one of my specialties as a photographer). A ‘Day in the Life’ is photographs of natural moments of a day in our life with friends, family, etc creating nostalgic memories forever.
When The Doggos Spotted Snow For The First Time…
When Coffee & Butter saw snow for the first time they absolutely adored the experience. They just kept running like there was no stop button to a treadmill machine. They were eating snow as if it was a mountain filled with vanilla ice cream. They even had a little adventure called tube riding. The doggy way to do it is to make daddy sit on the tube. Sit on daddy. Bark at tube person to push the tube down the snow-covered slope. Jump and lick daddy all over. Repeat!! I mean what more can a dog ask for?
The doggos were living in the moment and making the most of each second. In the evening there were two mountain female dogs who came near our igloo, one of them was just not ready to leave Coffee. Coffee apparently has that charm with all female dogs. And Butter and Neo, in spite of several attempts were rejected. Regarding their clothing we made them wear their Winter Jackets which can take -10°c temp (Ruff wear), we made sure they ate properly so they could keep themselves warm enough. That’s very very important.
After a fun play day we entered into a wonderful starry evening. We had an evening chilling on tables and chairs built with snow with some music and rum to warm ourselves and then moved on next to a bonfire set up as it got colder. It got so windy and cold that our dogs cosied up around the bonfire with us. After a fun dinner over the warm bonfire with music and rum, we were all charged up for some dancing with the dogs in the snow.
A Night Spent In The Igloo
We also witnessed this cute little mountain Siberian husky puppy who was just 3 months old. When his owner left him in the snow, he looked super adorable. He was hopping on the snow like a bunny. That night when we slept in the igloo, the dogs were tucked into 4 layers of real thick blankets and all four legs had warm socks covering their paws. Before getting to Sethan we made sure we stayed a night in Manali so that the dogs could get acclimatised to the weather. Coffee and Butter are city pets so we were careful and we did’nt know how their body would react. Always take it slow and steady.
Late in the night as it got even colder, all four of us slept in that igloo cuddled away to glory. In the middle of the night we got up once to check on them. They seemed perfectly alright. Though in the morning they were frozen when we woke up. Butter was shivering, I guess he ended up getting out from his blanket and couldn’t figure his way back in, but nothing serious. It was one kind of experience which I don’t think Coffee & Butter will ever forget.
Coming Back To The Homestay In Manali
Coming back to Manali in our sweet little homestay felt like bliss, with a lot of open space for the doggos to run around. So the property has its own dogs, so the staff knew very well in terms of how to handle dogs. Later we found out that one of puppies at the properties we met when we reached, had contracted parvo (Parvo is an incurable contagious fatal disease in dogs) scaring us to chase our vet. But our dogs were vaccinated, so it was fine.
The Babies Had A Ropeway Ride To The Top Of The Mountain
The next day, we went to Solang Valley, to take them to the top of the mountain. Fortunately, they allowed pets to go by the ropeway which we were super glad to hear as most ropeways in India don’t allow pets. This was a first-hand experience for all dogs. As soon as we reached we played, ate, and chilled in the snow. We took some photos and did all the touristy stuff.
Reaching Jibhi, The Hipster Camping Town
On our last day in Manali, we spent the evening at a café by the riverside before gobbling on yummy treats in the market. Manali has a couple of famous bakeries (Do call and check before going as all don’t allow pets). The next day we headed out for Jibhi. The most beautiful part of travelling by road was exploring the new routes. Jibhi (A hipster camping town) had some really beautiful lake-side places to stay. It was super peaceful with no cellular network at all. We spent the evening at a riverside restaurant with some trance music and met their pet Pablo, a 3-month-old American pitbull who was so naughty that he did not let any dog take a nap. While heading back we were being followed by a mountain stray. It was attacking our dogs and wouldn’t back off. He followed us back to our stay and didn’t leave.
Starting For Shimla Via Jalori Pass
The next day we started towards Shimla via Jalori Pass which was suggested by a stranger on the train. It was one of the most scenic roads I had been to in recent times. We got off in the middle of the highway, walked around, played in the snow & made snow fairies like little kids. The entire stretch was fresh soft snow and our devil inside woke up to mischief. We first flung Butter in the air to land on the snow. He loved it and the dogs took turns to be flung. The Pahadi Maggi and the Coffee which we had at Jalori Pass in the Dhaba was to die for.
Our Shimla stay was a bit off Shimla at a place called Cheog. We didn’t book any stay in the main areas due to covid. We met some people in our hotel, who fell in love with the doggos. The doggos were happily getting massages in return for some photos with them. A great barter system.
Meeting Ibiza At A 150-Yr Old Property In Kasauli
The next stop was Kasauli, our last destination, where we stayed at a beautiful gated heritage property that was 150 years old on top of a hill. The property had a female Golden retriever, whose name was EB (short for ‘Ibiza’). She was a super obedient pet.
In the evening, I saw a dog strolling far away on the hill and I thought it was EB. I kept shouting her name EB, EB.. As the dog came nearby, I realised it was Coffee and not EB. Smartypants, Coffee must have sneaked outside the bungalow. I don’t know how he managed to open the gate. Coffee is literally a wanderer as he loves strolling by himself. At the same time, Butter is a cuddle baby with humans and will follow us where ever we go.
While returning back to Mumbai, they were so tired from all the play that they slept through the entire train journey. The funniest part was, when we reached Mumbai Central and got off the train, Coffee was trying to climb back into the train again. He apparently did not want to come home !!
All in all, an awesome experience, although we did not get to see snowfall, we got ample snow and countless memories. Guess what, we always leave something to go back for. Until Next time !!!
As told to Suchismita Pal